Patients, politicians and colleagues respond to Nobel win by Houston’s immunotherapy founder

October 3, 2018

Pioneering immunologists Jim Allison of Houston and Tasuku Honjo of Japan were named winners of the Nobel Prize in Medicine on Monday for their work that constitutes “a landmark in our fight against cancer,” the Nobel Assembly said in a statement.

Accolades came in from Houston and across the globe for Allison. Among them:

Susan Allen of Dallas, a patient at MD Anderson Cancer Center: “We came about three weeks ago (to MD Anderson) for the first consultation. They have not figured out my treatment therapy, but it may include immunotherapy, which is what Jim Allison does. We are just so happy to be here — we feel like we’re in the right hands being at MD Anderson. Cancer is stressful enough, so I feel like we’re in a good place.”

Rhonda Long, of Sugar Land, daughter of a current MD Anderson Cancer Center patient: “To see someone win that prize says a lot about this organization, so we’re just thrilled that he’s here at MD Anderson and getting the care that he’s getting.”

Former Vice President Joe Biden in a call to Allison: “I am so happy for you, and you deserve the recognition. You’re going to save an awful lot of lives.”

Sharon Vener, one of Allison’s former patients who is now 17 years post treatment: “The tears of gratitude are flowing so hard… . That Jim has been recognized worldwide for immunotherapy is so important, so that other patients now hopefully will find doctors in other places who will now realize that this is a truly viable therapy for many diseases.”

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas): “Dr. Allison’s commitment to enhancing cancer therapies is an embodiment of Texas values, and the cutting edge research being conducted in our state will help patients around the world for generations to come.”

Dr. Jedd Wolchok, chief of the melanoma and immunotherapeutics service at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York: “An untold number of lives ... have been saved by the science that they pioneered.”

Charles Swanton, U.K. professor of cancer research via the BBC: “Thanks to this groundbreaking work, our own immune system’s innate power against cancer has been realised and harnessed into treatments that continue to save the lives of patients…. The booming field of immunotherapy that these discoveries have precipitated is still relatively in its infancy, so it’s exciting to consider how this research will progress in the future and what new opportunities will arise.”

James Willson, chief scientific officer at the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas: “Dr. Allison not only had the insight to invert the assumptions on CLTA-4, but he had the persistence to push it into drug development despite widespread skepticism at the time. He literally proved that the immune system could indeed be harnessed to fight cancer and now many other scientists are joining him on this frontier. It’s tremendously exciting.”

Staff writer Kaylee Dusang contributed to this report.

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